Have you ever experienced performance anxiety? Does the idea of performing in front of an audience fill you with fear? Read on to learn more about the disorder, as well as some tried and tested methods for getting through it.
What is Performance Anxiety?
Performance anxiety can affect anybody. Usually, it will appear when you are about to perform any kind of task that will put you into the spotlight. This can be anything from sport, to acting, to music. However, performance anxiety can strike any time you’re feeling watched.
At best, it’s an annoyance, and at worst, it can stop you from achieving your goals.
How to Tell if You Have Performance Anxiety
We’ve all got a “fight-or-flight” response programmed into us. This exists to help us survive. However, this survival response can be triggered at inappropriate times, making us feel threatened when there is no real threat.
Pre-performance jitters are to be expected: It is normal that you may feel nervous before a show! Nerves become performance anxiety when they get in the way of you doing what you need to do.
Performance anxiety basically makes your body respond to any kind of performance as though it were being attacked. The physical symptoms can include:
- Quicker pulse
- Trouble swallowing
- Shaky voice
- Sweaty hands
- Blurred vision
What Causes Performance Anxiety?
There are a number of different causes for performance anxiety. Most people may not even know why they experience it. It might be that you have some sort of trauma associated with performance. Maybe you are afraid of making mistakes. Perhaps you struggle with your self-image, or you don’t like to leave your comfort zone.
Whatever the cause behind your performance anxiety, it can be managed. Read on for some tips for dealing with it.
1. Perform to Yourself
A lot of the fear factor comes from the unknown. If you are unfamiliar with what it feels like to do a performance, try performing to yourself during music practice. While you are playing your piece, close your eyes and imagine the audience watching you. Play your music as though you were performing it to those people.
Going through the whole song and dance of performing will help you begin to familiarise yourself with that feeling of adrenaline. This will make it less jarring when you actually come to perform your music, because you will know what to expect.
2. Practice Makes…
There’s no magic pill that will make you confident in your repertoire. The road to musical perfection, and a performance anxiety-free life, is consistent practice. Simply put, the more you practice, the easier it gets. Getting the basics down will free you up to do more elaborate work, and focus on your performance technique.
The saying goes “practice makes perfect”, but we prefer “practice makes confident”. It is confidence that will shine through in a strong performance. It’s confidence that audiences remember.
Also read: How to Keep Your Motivation While Practicing
3. Reinforce Positive Thoughts
It’s very easy to fall into a hole of self-criticism, especially because criticism is necessary to improve. But praising yourself is even more important, especially if you suffer with performance anxiety.
Focus on what you do well. It can help to write a list of your best qualities. When you are starting to feel negative about yourself, look at that list and remind yourself that you are actually doing well. This will help you to build up a positive core self belief, and make you less likely to freeze up onstage.
4. Be Kind to Yourself
Remember, mental health is just as important as any other part of your wellbeing. If your performance anxiety is beginning to affect your mental health as a whole, then it’s important to seek help. You should also look after your general health, as this can have an effect on your mental health. Ensure that you’re drinking the right amount of water, sleeping 8 hours every night and doing enough exercise.
In fact, musicians are at a greater risk of a range of medical problems than those in other professions. These include mental health issues, musculoskeletal problems, vocal cord issues and hearing loss. BAPAM is a charity dedicated to providing and researching healthcare for musicians. To learn more, visit their website.
Performance anxiety is difficult to deal with. However, it is not a life sentence! Try these tips and remember to reach out if you need extra support. We hope to see you on stage sometime soon!